This week in the Morgrave Miscellany design breakdown and review, I’m jumping right back in where I left off last time, with the Child of Khyber section. I’m hoping to finish up this week, since a fair portion of the remaining content is game-running advice. So without further ado…
Child of Khyber
The mechanical concept of the Child of Khyber is to use the race-feature tools to express aberrant dragonmarks, similar to how other dragonmarks are expressed through subrace mechanics in Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron. The narrative emphasizes early tragedy and manifestation before you start your adventuring life (and thus before you have an ASI/feat to spend). The fascinating move here is that your core race is Child of Khyber, and your subrace is aberrant dwarf, aberrant elf, and so on. This is a great idea that keeps the greater number of features and the shared element on the race, while the non-shared element is relegated to the subrace portion. I think this is a great approach and I assume we’ll see half a dozen implementations of revenants that use this solution.
The Child of Khyber race offers:
- +1 Con.
- Aberrant Birth is your aberrant/sorcerer spellcasting. In this case, you gain a sorcerer cantrip immediately, and at 3rd level you gain a 1st-level sorcerer spell that you cast with a 2nd-level slot. Con is your casting stat.
- It’s impossible not to draw a comparison to tiefling spellcasting. The choice to grant just one spell slot, an up-cast 1st level spell, is quite surprising. After all, isn’t spellcasting more central to the aberrant dragonmark concept than to tieflings? You can, of course, boost this further with two feat options, as I discussed last week.
- Hard Road grants you the proficiencies and feature of a second background, chosen from Charlatan, Criminal, Outlander, and Urchin. That’s a whole lot of skills to receive from a race, but it does tell a pretty clear story.
- A historical perspective: one of the early D&D Next designs for the rogue granted a second background, chosen from a comparable list. In that class design, it was both telling the story of the rogue’s double nature, and the mechanical vehicle for the rogue’s greater number of skills than other classes. I can’t know for sure why it got dropped from the rogue, but I assume it had to do with not granting more of the big 1st-level choice points to one class than another. Maybe it also confused people.
- Marked for Disturbance is about your place in the Draconic Prophecy. Dragons and dragonmarked creatures gain advantage on Investigation checks to locate your mark, and you gain advantage on Intimidation checks against dragons and dragonmarked creatures. So you fit into the Draconic Prophecy about the same way the discords of Melkor fit into the theme of Iluvatar.
- Will to Survive is a self-heal with a double cost: you both expend one of your aberrant spells and a number of HD equal to the spell’s level.
- This is one of those places where probably most readers won’t know the formal rule on whether your 1st-level spell cast as a 2nd-level spell now counts as a 1st– or 2nd-level spell. I think the only way to even know how to read that rule with technical correctness is to trawl through Jeremy Crawford’s tweets? Getting it wrong isn’t the end of the world, of course.
- You can speak, read, and write Common and Goblin.
- …Goblin? That’s telling some kind of story, but I don’t specifically know of a connection between goblins and aberrant marks or Khyber. (And I don’t have my books available to go digging.)
- Your age, size, and speed come from your subrace.
I’m not going through each subrace individually, but I do want to call out a few points. First, the features you share with your parent race emphasize physiology over cultural or learned features, which… I don’t know how to feel about that. I think it raises questions about what fundamental dwarvishness is, if you see what I mean. Ultimately this model required them to leave you without some features.
Second, aberrant elves are Just Better than aberrant half-elves, by the value of one feature. They’re otherwise precisely equal.
Third, aberrant humans gain 2 points of ability score bonus, as opposed to the 1 that most others get (halflings are outliers here), but other than that all they get is an exotic language proficiency.
Overall, this is a strong presentation and I reiterate that it would be a good model for a revenant race. Child of Khyber tells a lot of the same story as mutants in Marvel Comics, or the stories that many people informally polled on Twitter tell about sorcerers in D&D, just in a different area of your mechanics. Not that anything is stopping you from combining this with sorcerer levels!
This collection of nine feats largely parallels the racial feats presented in XGTE, but emphasizes uniquely Eberron themes. We also see a feat chain (uh, two whole feats), which isn’t exactly 3.x feat-chain territory, but still isn’t common in 5e.
Atavist is for kalashtar. It turns your single-target telepathic phone line into a group chat client, though you have to keep spending bonus actions to maintain that. Still, giving PCs a back channel to strategize silently, especially during social interaction scenes, can be incredibly powerful and fun. You also gain a 1/short rest reroll on any attack, check, or save, and you add either your Int or Wis modifier to the result. This is a good feat that would be highly desirable in games I run, but probably less so at a theoretical “average” table.
Chameleon is for changelings, and it offers a direct improvement on existing race features: Change Appearance is a bonus action rather than an action, and Unsettling Visage gets +1 use/short rest. It’s straightforward, and it’s things you’re likely to want. A character with this feat doesn’t have a particularly different game experience than one without, though. This is probably no one’s high-priority feat pick.
Hierophant is for druids and rangers. “And rangers” is the interesting part, because its main effect is letting you Wild Shape to a CR 1/8 creature. For druids, it’s an extra use of Wild Shape per short rest, which is great to have right up until you reach 20th level, at which point this feat becomes largely extraneous. I have some issues with the Archdruid feature, even without this feature. Anyway, it also grants proficiency in either Nature or Survival, and lets you cast speak with animals, 1/short rest.
Oh, and one other thing – if you’re willing to buy Magical Adept, Ritual Caster, or Spell Sniper feats, you can qualify for this one. I love feat-driven multiclassing, so I like that they’ve framed the prerequisites in a way that allows this.
Moonspeaker builds off of a later feat in this section, Weretouched Master, and it requires you to be 8th level, just to make sure fighters don’t get to jump the gun. It grants +1 Dex, a second Shifter Feature from a shifter subrace you don’t belong to, and more hit points regained (Con score rather than Con modifier) when your shifting ends. This seems like it’ll be flashy and fun during play, especially as you get to describe the bizarre and wonderful combination of creatures that make up your shifted appearance.
Quori Nightmare is another kalashtar feat. It grants +1 Int, either proficiency or expertise in Intimidation, and a telepathic frightening effect. I don’t like to see proficiency or expertise features, because – as you know from previous articles – I’m opposed to proliferation of expertise, all the more in this case because it encourages long-term character planning for optimal effect. The telepathic frightening effect takes an action for a single target, so this is generally not a great use of your time during combat. It could be a good way to start a fight, though. The power level of the feat is fine overall, I just don’t love it.
Spirit Rider is for halflings and wood elves (you know, Valenar elves), improving their connection to their mounts. In a sense, it’s a feat that lets you make a personal magic item. It grants telepathic communication with your mount, advantage on Animal Handling checks (though with telepathy, you should have no trouble using Charisma skills on your mount as well), advantage on your mount’s Athletics and Acrobatics checks, and a limited means of communication with creatures of the same kind as your mount. The idea of a Valenar spirit rider encouraging the enemy cavalry’s mounts to rise up against their masters – “Andalusians of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your bits and bridles!” – is super funny to me.
Warforged Colossus is, obviously, for kalasht…
(Editor’s note: the writer of this tomfoolery has been sacked.)
…warforged, also requiring Str 13+. It grants a point of Strength (quick note, I haven’t listed the +1s to a score of every feat in this section, only several of them), it lets you spend your reaction to reduce forced movement by 10 feet, and your charging attacks (no Charger feat required) let you add your Str bonus to damage again, so a nominal up to +5 damage, comparable to the Charger feat. Well, okay, Strength can go higher, but no one’s going to count on that. This looks like a fine feat, though you won’t get to use its benefits all that consistently. It’s less of a weird action-economy hog than Charger, but 20 feet harder to trigger.
Warforged Reclaimer is another feat for kalashta…
(Editor’s note: OUT!)
…warforged, requiring 6th level. This is a super cool feat – it lifts 4e’s Transfer Enchantment ritual, but just for armor and just for transferring it to your Integrated Protection. It does open the possibility of mismatching your Integrated Protection “weight” (light, medium, heavy) with the enchantment, since it doesn’t seem like you have to meet prerequisites, but that’s not actually a huge concern.
Maybe more worrying is the possibility of +3 heavy plating at 17th level, for a cozy AC of 25. Before seeing this feat, I’d assumed that Integrated Protection was only okay because it was locking you out of armor-based magic items and AC boosts. (Now, in fairness, there are plenty of ways to die even with infinitely high AC at 17th+ level, but still.)
Weretouched Master is a shifter feat. It grants +1 Dexterity, the trait (not including ability score or shifter feature) of a second shifter type, and when you revert from your shifter form, you regain hit points equal to your Con modifier. Reading this now explains a lot about Moonspeaker! Anyway, I feel the same way about this that I did about Moonspeaker; they’re both fun, for the same reason. Two feats represent a lot of commitment in 5e, though.
Taking all of these feats together, I like what I see. I have some concerns about potential optimal uses of Warforged Reclaimer and assumptions it’s making about magic item balancing – basically, if you’re playing with some third-party content that steps a little outside the DMG’s magic armor, things could get hairy. Not that there are any sane ways to put limits on it while maintaining its core concept. I’d like to see Chameleon tweaked to take a bigger step away from baseline changelings.
New setting-specific Backgrounds are always going to be a good time. On the other hand, individual breakdowns won’t be terribly interesting to write or read. There are four new Backgrounds, and I like all of them. My favorite is the Chronicler, which they’re using for a quasi-fantasy journo. I can see playing some kind of spider-themed shifter rogue, maybe the Thief subclass, with this Background just hanging around a neighborhood of Sharn. I feel like that would be Amazing.
The Aspirant is a druidic twist on the Acolyte, and the Cadet is a Soldier who made it through officer training but hasn’t yet seen action. Finally, the Auditor – my other favorite of this group – is a professional investigator, usually working for House Kundarak or House Medani. But I’m a Bujold fan, so you know I’d play an Auditor who was a scary-low-Con, high Int and Cha halfling or gnome. Once you’ve gotten that far, the character class doesn’t matter all that much.
There’s nothing mechanical to discuss in this section, but an exploration of creative ways to play the Player’s Handbook backgrounds in Eberron is a great read. Top marks here.
That brings us to the end of mechanics to cover in a breakdown article. There are two more chapters, though: one on the practical parts of how to run fantasy noir, and another on encounters to run for 0th-level characters, to act as an introduction to the setting and a tutorial level for gameplay. Or, you know, as idea seeds for low-level stories.
This article series has been an Experience. I think the book has a lot to offer any Eberron fan. Even with my criticisms of some subclasses, I don’t know how any moderate to serious Eberron fan could resist this book. There are tons of cool ideas packed into this text, and the great majority of them are implemented well.
The weakest point is the first few subclasses. It gets steadily better from there. The book’s flavor text and DM guidance are just incredible throughout, and sustaining that kind of quality throughout is a high bar. I assume no one is buying this expecting to enjoy it mainly for its art. That said, the art is not super dense in this book, but the quality of what’s there is unimpeachable.
I’m happy to hear that the creative team has posted a survey for Morgrave Miscellany and plans to make changes based on that feedback. It’s a bear of a survey to get through (and it doesn’t help that I accidentally closed the window and had to start over once), and it’s nearing its closing date, so if you’ve picked up a copy of the book, don’t wait.